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Private security companies prompt rethink

Aegis was awarded one of the biggest US security contracts in Iraq valued at more than $430 million Keystone

The government is to investigate whether federal legislation is needed for private security firms that are based in Switzerland but active in conflict regions.

This content was published on August 25, 2010 - 15:42

The move follows news of the arrival in Basel of Aegis Defence Services, one of the world’s largest private security contractors.

The government has commissioned a report on the issue to be ready by the end of the year.

In 2008, the Swiss cabinet decided there was no need for legislation on the subject due to the small number of Swiss firms that might potentially export security resources.

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said on Sunday that the private military companies had to commit themselves to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said in an interview ten days ago that the setting up of Aegis’s headquarters in Basel did not run contrary to existing laws.

“However, compatibility with Swiss values, in which international humanitarian law plays an important role, is another question,” she commented.

Aegis employs an estimated 20,000 mercenaries, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them are on contract to the United States defence department.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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